How should I bring this project to life, keeping in mind that I don't want to be handing my design over to multiple manufacturers, as I'm afraid of having my idea stolen.
The metal product will be a small detailed item (no bigger than 3" long) with a removable section (think a sword and its sheath). To be made of titanium. I will first need it drawn in CAD, prototyped, and then manufactured.
That's a common fear, but you are better off putting that aside and just going for it. Instead of worrying about someone taking your idea, have any manufacturer, pattern maker, etc sign an NDA, and move forward with your idea. And most importantly, work with people you can trust. Even if your idea is revolutionary (and I'm sure it's excellent), the people you talk to are most likely busy enough with their own endeavors to copy someone else's project. Not to mention they aren't going to be as passionate about it as you are. I'm happy to help if you need advice or a contract. Good luck and take action!
I have been involved in over 40 technology dependent startups. The best protection is dealing with reputable people. A practical management solution is to farm out manufacturing of the individual components to more than one (maybe not "multiple") manufacturer. You can protect yourself under a contract as well. The second best protection is to spend money on an IP lawyer and get a patent, or patents, to protect the idea. You can also copyright the plans and the schematics. All of this of course assumes that you have money to defend the patent and to sue people who break the contracts. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to get in touch.
I work with inventors on commercializing their inventions, which basically means bringing the inventions to market and protecting them along the way. I do the business and technology work my IP attorney partners on the legal work. Together with my partners we've worked on transactions with an aggregate value of over $500 million.
In this case, you may want to consider filing a design patent, which are typically pretty simple and inexpensive to file. Because it sounds like your product's uniqueness is mostly in its design and you have specific design specifications in mind, a design patent could be a good fit for you, if you do decide that you want to proceed with a more formalized protection plan for your invention.
Best of luck and always happy to discuss further on a call!
I've had the same questioning once, when I've met my co-founder at Wideo.co
He told me something I always remember. If you have a great idea, you were probably have been thinking about it and every detail at least some months ago. So what you can tell in a fraction of time to someone to give a brief idea, won't ever describe the amount of information, specificity, sub ideas, contacts, business model, and every minor detail you've been planing since then.
So don't be afraid to share your idea since no one would be able to execute as well as you, if you really have something powerful and value in your mind.
What's more, speak about it with every person you met, and get as much feedback as you can (the sooner, the better)
I hope you find my advice useful.
Good luck with the project!